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DDWS, refuge to kick off annual amateur photography contest

By Staff | Jul 14, 2020

KENT JAGER In last year's “Ding” Darling Day Amateur Nature Photography Contest, first place went to Kent Jager, of Sanibel, for his “White-eyed Vireo” portrait.

The submission process is officially set to open for the J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge’s annual contest for amateur photographers who enjoy capturing shots of nature and wildlife.

Sponsored by the “Ding” Darling Wildlife Society-Friends of the Refuge, the 28th annual “Ding” Darling Day Amateur Nature Photography Contest will kick off on July 15. Held in conjunction with the annual “Ding” Darling Day, planned for Oct. 28, it is open to non-professional photographers.

DDWS Development Officer Sierra Hoisington explained that Jay Norwood “Ding” Darling, the pioneer conservationist who the refuge is named after, used his artwork to promote environmentalism.

“Our namesake is because of Jay Norwood ‘Ding’ Darling, who was a political cartoonist,” she said. “So we like to celebrate art in all forms, and nature photography is probably one of our biggest.”

“It celebrates seeing the refuge through different eyes,” Hoisington added of the contest.

MARTHA HUARD Martha Huard, of Bokeelia, took second place with a yellow-crowned night heron titled “Flight.”

It has a $25 entry fee that covers two photograph submissions, including a DDWS membership.

“It’s open to all ages,” she said, noting that high school students to senior citizens enter.

“But it’s only open to amateur photographers,” Hoisington added.

As its name implies, the competition is not open to professionals. Basically, those who possess a professional photographer tax identification number for the sale of photographs cannot enter.

Last year, 191 total entries were received from 20 states.

LARRY BROPHY Larry Brophy, of Fort Myers, won third place with an American alligator shot titled “Keep Your Distance.”

“We had an entry from Switzerland,” she added.

The first place winner was Kent Jager, of Sanibel, with a photo of a white-eyed vireo.

“Which is super unique because we don’t get warblers that place in our contest,” Hoisington said.

One rule is the photographs have to be from the refuge, and only one of the two is eligible to win.

“The photo actually has to be taken at the refuge in the past two years,” she said.

Photographs that have won awards in previous DDWS contests cannot be submitted. Each photograph must be a JPEG file of at least 3000-by-2400 or four megabytes; panoramic shots are not permitted.

Only limited image modifications are allowed.

“In this contest, we only say minor modifications are permitted,” Hoisington said, explaining that cropping or slight alterations that create a more natural-looking photograph are allowed, but playing with the saturation or photoshopping or adding in elements to the original scene are not permitted.

“We’re going to figure that out and, unfortunately, they are ineligible,” she noted.

Submissions should not include the individual’s name nor identifying information.

“We don’t accept any photos that contain personal information,” Hoisington said. “All of these photos will be look at by all of the judges that we have, so we like to keep things anonymous.”

The judging panel will be made up of three people.

“We have a representative from the refuge. They’re kind of there to make sure the photos actually were taken on the refuge,” she said. “We also have a judge that is a professional photographer, so they’ll look at the photos from the technical side and at their interesting characteristics. The third judge we have is a community member – because Sanibel is all about community.”

Hoisington explained that the judges will consider three criteria, including originality or creativity, interest, and technical excellence, which entails sharpness, lighting, composition and exposure.

The cash award prizes are $300 for first place, $225 for second, and $175 for third.

“Our honorable mentions will each receive $25,” she said.

Last year, 11 honorable mentions were awarded.

All of the winning photographs will be put on display in the refuge’s Visitor & Education Center.

“We have about 300,000 annual visitors, so it’s going to be seen by a lot of people,” Hoisington said.

The winners will also be shared online and in the DDWS newsletter.

The deadline for submission is Sept. 15.

All entries must be emailed to ddamateurphotocontest@gmail.com.

For an entry form and complete rules, visit dingdarlingsociety.org/articles/photo-contests.

The DDWS will announce the winners and award prizes at the “Ding” Darling Day.

The public encouraged to take part.

“I think a good reason is no matter who drives down Wildlife Drive, we’re all going to see different things,” she said. “Sharing what you saw to hundreds of thousands of people, I think, is special.”

Hoisington also pointed to the disruption in people’s lives due to the current health crisis.

“We’ve recently found sharing photos and videos from the refuge provides a break. They have really put a lot of people at peace and let them escape from reality for a bit,” she said. “So I think this contest is going to be a little more important this year than it has in past years.”

For more information or assistance, contact 239-472-1100 ext. 4 or shois@dingdarlingsociety.org.

For more about the refuge’s “Ding” Darling Day, visit www.dingdarlingdays.com.

The J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge is at 1 Wildlife Drive, Sanibel.